Sweet and Lo-Fi

Bill Streeter's vlog is how others see us

"This is all major, major stuff coming down the pipe," says Sreenath Sreenivasan, dean of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. "These are all eyeballs that are distracted by other stuff that used to look at me. So we have to play in that space somehow, and have our own equivalent of these things to figure it out.

"Big media didn't pay attention to bloggers until very late," Sreenivasan adds. "They're not making the same mistake with podcasts. They say: 'Send us your pictures, send us your video.' Some of the best stuff from the London bombings was from video blogs and cell phones. It's a rear-guard action against all this stuff."

Possibly the deftest appropriation of the medium to date came last month when NBC made a clip of a Saturday Night Live skit entitled "Lazy Sunday" available for free on a variety of video-sharing Web sites. The clip, a rap spoof billed as a "digital short" that had aired on SNL December 17, became an Internet sensation, clearing 1 million downloads within ten days (and providing an elusive silver lining to an otherwise painfully humorless season of SNL).

Jennifer Silverberg
Jennifer Silverberg

When it comes to infiltrating pop-culture consciousness, is the Internet now a more influential medium than network television?

"I think that's fair to say, though it's because of the power of SNL that it became as big a thing as it did," hedges Columbia's Sreenivasan. "It was easy for people to say, 'You missed this on SNL.' I think what's interesting is that SNL chose to give it away on iTunes. That was a very smart move, and it made a big difference. They knew this was going to be big — why not get the word out there and make it a really big, big thing. I think it was a lesson to broadcasters who are very timid about using the Internet in a smart way."

Either way, this kind of "toe-dipping" (as Current TV's Sloan likes to call it) — which includes NBC's recent deal with Apple to offer Conan O'Brien and other regularly scheduled programming on iTunes for a fee — isn't going to squelch the organic podcasting realm, argues Adam Curry.

"This is not a matter of 'hurry up and get to market because the train is leaving,'" says the Podshow founder. "There was no train. It's a three-dimensional intergalactic spaceship we're on."

The gist of this high-minded argument is that even Apple, pop-culture trailblazer that it may be, is giving short shrift to the interactive nature of the audiovisual vanguard.

"The iPod is a great device, but it's one-way," Bluestein points out. "They're not thinking very Web 2.0, which is all about two-way communication: You put out a podcast and your listeners communicate back to you. In the short term it may benefit them, because they'll be able to resell all this crap that's being put out on TV, but that's not the point of the medium. They're a little misguided."

The Creepy Crawl would be the perfect place to stage a cockfight. It's dark, and it comes equipped with cheap tallboys of Stag, a fence to separate purple-Mohawk minors from major-league drunks, walls covered with profane posters and graffiti, and loud music. Really fucking loud music.

Suffice to say that when a wispy Asian dude in a white fisherman's sweater enters the black-clad fray followed by a fellow toting a set of decks, it's worth noting. Seems the Creepy's managers have deigned to rent the club to some Everything But the Girl remix lapdogs on this December Friday, boxing the 7 Shot Screamers into a 9:30 curfew.

"Johnnie O and the Jerks could not play tonight because of extenuating circumstances involving techno music," announces the Screamers' lead singer, flanked by a standup bassist wearing a shirt that says "Christ is Life. Everything Else is Just Baseball."

"But they'll be playing the afterparty at our friend's house," the mascara-laden frontman adds before launching into a vicious X cover. "There will be drugs, booze and guys."

As the kids in the fenced-in pen go apeshit, Streeter and a second cameraman, Brian "Bowls" McLean, fight for prime angles. Bowls, who attended college with Streeter in Chicago, is using Streeter's handheld; Streeter has borrowed a larger camera and monopod from a friend. Two days later, the video will be cut, buffed and live on Lo-Fi for the world to stream.

"I can edit most of my clips within an hour," Streeter imparts.

The Screamers purposely drag out their set an extra fifteen minutes to piss off the beat-heads, at which point the Creepy clears out. Next stop for Streeter and Bowl: St. Louis Centre, where a pair of artists are busy pimping out the otherwise-vacant third floor of Middle America's most moribund shopping mall (see related story in this week's issue).

After the quick scoot down Washington Avenue, Streeter and Bowls are greeted in the employee parking garage by Peat Wollaeger, whose latest artistic obsession has been to stencil the silhouettes of his favorite five fat dead comics — Candy, Farley, Belushi, Hardy and Arbuckle — on sundry walls.

"We've met a lot of very talented people in St. Louis," says Wollaeger, another Chicago expatriate. "There are some skills in this town."

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